Fabulous Follow-Up Questions

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

Whether doing a Read Aloud, facilitating a Guided Reading group, or asking students to respond to their Independent Reading, the follow-up questions you ask AFTER students respond are just as important as the initial question you pose.

The most highly effective teachers I’ve ever worked with always ask some variation of the following questions after each answer:

  • Why do you think that?
  • How do you know?
  • How did you figure that out?

One of my favorite parts of the Common Core Standards comes on page 7, where the authors talk about the traits of the college-/career-ready student, and assert that such a student values evidence:

“Students cite specific evidence when offering an oral or written interpretation of a text. They use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking, making their reasoning clear to the reader or listener, and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.”

Asking follow-up questions consistently makes evidence-gathering a healthy reading habit.

Whether the student response is correct or in need of some redirection, asking a follow-up question is crucial for several reasons:Pencil Talk

1. If the answer is correct, it allows students who may have been confused (unbeknownst to you) to hear how the responding student found the answer.

2. If the answer is incorrect, it gives you, the instructor, an idea of where that wrong answer came from and, in turn, what questions to ask that redirect the student back on the right path.

3. Asking follow-up questions opens the floor for students to demonstrate alternate ways of thinking.  Sometimes there are multiple paths to a “right” answer, and asking one student to explain his or her thinking encourages others to share a different way of arriving at the same conclusion.

4. Teachers are not and should not be the sole bestowers of knowledge in the classroom.  For some students, concepts click faster when explained by classmates.  An ideal classroom environment is one where everyone is learning and growing, and asking follow-up questions allows students to also play the role of teacher, sharing knowledge, ideas, solutions and understanding with their peers.

What are your favorite follow-up questions to ask during your literacy block? Share yours in the comments!